World Hindu Congress in Chicago Witnesses Protests
World Hindu Congress organizers claimed that protesters entered the venue with fake identity cards, while the protesters said that they were physically assaulted for showing dissent peacefully.
The World Hindu Congress (WHC) at Chicago, United States, was disrupted for a brief while on Sept.7, following which two women protesters were taken into custody by the police. One man was also arrested for spitting on the face of a woman protester in front of the police.
The protesters were charged with disorderly conduct and trespassing. They were released later in the night.
The fracas began when some protesters started shouting slogans against “Hindu fascism” at the venue. They were then subjected to violence like kicking, punching, grabbing and spitting by some of the attendees of the conference.
Six protesters, including five women, were sitting at two different places in the hall, where the plenary session was going on. A video posted on Facebook by Alliance for Justice and Accountability shows that during the program, protesters begin to shout the slogans such as “RSS turn around, we don’t want you in town” and “Stop Hindu fascism.”
The slogans prompted a group of people in the hall to gather around the protesters, and counter them by raising slogans like “Bharat mata ki jai” and “Vande mataram.” The protesters were reportedly manhandled by the group.
Young Inter-caste, Inter-faith, and Queer South Asians and allies from Chicago did what Raja Krishnamoorthi – Congressman, IL-8 did not. They stood up as people of conscience to disrupt #RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat. As they unfurled the #StopHinduFascism banner they chanted, " RSS turn around we don't want you in our Town. STOP HINDU FASCISM." In the words of one of the activists, "After disrupting the evening plenary, the crowd at the WHC quickly became extremely aggressive and hostile – exposing the fascist and violent energy of the conference. We peacefully stood on our chairs and chanted, which was met by chairs being thrown, choking, shoving, pushing, verbal assaults, and spitting. The mask was immediately torn off of the fascist ideals underlying the WHC, emphasizing again that this was not merely a faith-based Hindu convening. I have participated in non-violent civil disobedience before , but I have never had people put their hands on me and become that hostile like that. It truly showed the true nature of Hindutva – and this was just a sliver compared to the violence that Dalit, Christian, Sikh, Muslim, Buddhist, Ravidassia and other minorities in India experience and live under threat of #Hindutva on the daily." We salute these activists who stood bravely against #Hindutva and risked much to stand in solidarity with #DalitBahujans resisiting #Hindutva and #Brahminism. This is the first direct action in In the united states against #CasteApartheid and #hindufascism and we thank their courage to stand with #truth against power.
Posted by Alliance for Justice and Accountability on Friday, September 7, 2018
The organizers alleged that the protesters intruded the venue showing fake identity cards.
Chicago South Asians For Justice, the organization behind the protest, issued a statement the next day about the violent behavior that the protesters were subjected to. The organization said it protests against the rise of global fascism in the United States, India, and worldwide.
“We were pushed into our seats and surrounded by a hoard of screaming men. I was punched in the face, kicked in the back, and grabbed. They called me a ‘dirty Muslim’ and threatened death. When I was outside in handcuffs, a man walked up to me and spat in my face in front of the police,” one of the protesters said in the statement.
Another protester added: “Someone actually started to choke me, and one of the other protesters had to get them off of me. Even when disrupting Donald Trump rallies, I’ve never had anyone put their hands on me like that, or respond with so much aggression, pushing, and obscenities. I can’t imagine how bad it would have gotten if there were not press cameras.”
Indian American politician and Chicago alderman Amey Pawar condemned the violence, saying that “bigoted” RSS has “no place in a discussion about Hinduism.’’
I’m disgusted that peaceful protestors at the @WHCongress were pushed, kicked, and spat on. The behavior of some attendees confirms that Hindu Nationalists and the bigoted RSS have no place in a discussion about Hinduism. We are better than this. https://t.co/Ihy8U0DSfy
— Ameya Pawar (@Ameya_Pawar_IL) September 8, 2018
He also criticized WHC, saying that it invited speakers and organizations that promote discrimination, Islamophobia and Hindu nationalism.
I’m a proud Hindu and the first Indian American elected to Chicago City Council. I’m extremely disappointed and ashamed the @WHCongress would invite speakers and organizations that promote discrimination, Islamaphobia, and Hindu nationalism. This is not who we are.
— Ameya Pawar (@Ameya_Pawar_IL) September 7, 2018
Addressing the WHC, Indian Vice President Venkaiah Naidu had said that India believes in universal toleration and that Indians “accept all religions as true.” He also said, “If you live in America, you must be an ideal American citizen, but don’t forget your mother-tongue and culture.”
India believes “not only in universal toleration but we accept all religions as true.”
The values we all cherish, as Indians, can be the guideposts for our individual growth and collective advancement. @WHCongress @MEAIndia #WHC2018 #WHC2018Chicago
— VicePresidentOfIndia (@VPSecretariat) September 9, 2018
RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat and the organization’s joint secretary Dattatreya Hosbale were present on the stage with six other top Hindu religious leaders when the protest took place, PTI reported. Urging Hindus across the world to come together, Bhagwat said, “In initial days of our work, when our karkyakartas (workers) used to talk to the Hindus about organizing them, they used to say ‘sher kabhi jhund mein nahi chalta‘ (a lion never walks in a group). But even that lion or a royal Bengal tiger who is the king of the jungle, if he is alone, wild dogs can invade and destroy him.”
Bhagwat’s comments drew criticism from opposition leaders in India.
The second World Hindu Congress, held from Sept. 7 to 9, marked the 125th anniversary of Swami Vivekananda’s historic speech at the Parliament of the World’s Religions in 1893 in Chicago. More than 2,500 delegates and 250 speakers from over 60 countries participated in the three-day event.